Hybrids & Electrics

Is the Nissan Leaf a Better Buy Over a Tesla Model 3?

The electric vehicle category is less a category than it is a race. And believe it or not, the two front runners are the Nissan Leaf and the Tesla Model 3. These two models were fighting for position over the past year as becoming the “all-time, best-selling electric vehicle worldwide,” and the Leaf had the top spot up until earlier this year. Number-one EV aside, is the Nissan Leaf actually a better buy than the Tesla Model 3?

Range anxiety is a thing of the past

Whether it can claim the top sport or not, the Nissan can at least claim that it was the first mass-produced electric car worldwide. The Nissan Leaf made its initial debut back in 2010 for the 2011 model year. It was small, egg-shaped, and had a range of only about 80 miles. That’s definitely nothing to write home about now, but back then, it was more about the race to get the car to market and provide an all-electric driving experience while other automakers were producing regular hybrids.

The electric range was an issue, though, even Car and Driver reported having range anxiety during their time with the first-generation Leaf, but Nissan did redesign it for the 2018 model year. The new Leaf sported a new look, a bigger battery, and was even given driver-assist features. Two Nissan Leaf models are currently available; the standard Leaf that has a 150-mile range and the Leaf Plus, which has a 226-mile range thanks to a bigger battery.

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A blue Nissan Leaf on display at an auto show.
Nissan Leaf | Raymond Boyd/Getty Images

But it’s not just about the range

While comparing the Nissan Leaf to the Tesla Model 3 might seem like a pointless exercise considering the Model 3 can clearly beat it when it comes to performance, range, and technically even price, those aren’t the only things to consider when buying an electric car. You can technically get a Model 3 for $35,000, but it doesn’t come with nearly as many features as the top-trim Nissan Leaf.

As the folks over at Edmunds found out, the true base Model 3 is an “off-menu” car that has to special ordered, and even then, you can only get it in white, only with the standard 18-inch wheels, and only with regular cruise control and navigation. There’s no fancy Autopilot feature or Apple Carplay, and there aren’t even rear speakers or floor mats, but you do get fake fog lights. For more information, you can check out the Edmunds video about that car below:

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What do you get with the Nissan Leaf?

If you opt for the Nissan Leaf, then you’ll get a wider range of trim choices to suit your needs and your budget. For starters, if you don’t have a long commute, you can opt for the 40kWh battery that allows for 150 miles of range and still opt for all the nice features like leather interior, heated seats, Apple Carplay/Android Auto, the ProPilot driver-assist suite, a 360-degree camera, and a Bose Premium sound system. No worries, about sacrificing on space either, as the Nissan Leaf’s hatchback shape provides ample leg, head, and cargo room for five occupants and a good amount of stuff.

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2019 Nissan Leaf Plus
2019 Nissan Leaf Plus | Nissan

Is the Nissan Leaf a better buy?

Ultimately, it really depends on your own personal needs. If you’re looking for performance and manufacturer panache, then the Tesla Model 3 might be for you. But if you want all of the luxury and tech amenities that you would come to expect out of a $35,000 EV, then we would suggest the Nissan Leaf SL Plus model that provides 226 miles of range and all of the aforementioned features. In that case, the Leaf would technically be a better EV to buy.